Keeping Camelot in training might be the best move, says Ian McClean
Radio Silence. Rarely has so much noise about a horse been followed by so much silence.
The anticipated coronation of the first Triple Crown champion in 42 years began its dawn almost before the applause for Camelot's Derby victory had faded to a whisper on Epsom Downs in June. Anticipation turned to expectation and that expectation had matured into rampant fervour by post-time at Town Moor for the last and oldest classic last Saturday.
However, like the Irish property bubble -- the steeper the rise, the sharper the fall. Camelot's eclipse registers as a failure unlike any other.
Aidan O'Brien was literally in a state of shock as he provided an interview to camera in the direct aftermath, manfully trying to mask hyperventilation with coherence whilst, mostly to himself, struggling to decipher the defeat.
After all, this was the horse the trainer described as "never having anything like him, or even close to him. He's the horse of a lifetime". Lester Piggott declared before the race that Camelot would "kill them for speed", hardly a surprising prediction given the horse had come from almost last to first to capture the 2,000 Guineas.
Therefore, Camelot's failure to bring home the Holy Grail is all the more perplexing given that all the facts determine he was beaten for speed and not stamina. The clock-watchers are adamant Encke's 25/1 win was no fluke in a race where sectionals followed a slow-quick-slow pattern. The race was clearly won at the two-furlong marker with Encke's burst of acceleration that took him clear of the field.
Camelot was stalking the winner at that point still travelling easily. Those looking for scapegoats (Joseph O'Brien's ride; no Ballydoyle pacemakers) are trying to rationalise the impossible.
The simplicity of the thing is that the Camelot that turned up at Doncaster was not the same Camelot that appeared for the previous two wins. For whatever reason. Because the Guineas-Derby Camelot would simply have slipstreamed Encke at the quarter-mile and accelerated past him at will.
Instead, when Joseph O'Brien asked him to follow the winner's move, Camelot jinked his head sideways and faltered. Perhaps he was feeling the ground; perhaps remembering the gruelling experience of the Irish Derby; perhaps there was some other physical impediment. The radio silence from Ballydoyle for over a week now concerning the hottest property in the sport is no doubt to allow connections first to come to terms with the colt's first dream-bursting career defeat, but primarily to enable a thorough going-over.
Connections of Camelot should be commended for their valour in attempting to emulate
the feat last achieved by Nijinsky in a commercial age that deems the Triple Crown neither popular nor profitable. The last two horses to win the first two legs -- Sea The Stars and Nashwan -- both went the more value-enhancing route of conquering their elders over shorter distances (both won the Eclipse after the Derby) and avoided the Leger risk.
For Coolmore, the Triple Crown was more a legacy call than a commercial one. John Magnier captured it earlier in the season, when the idea of the Triple Crown was just germinating, in the remark: "If you'd have asked me 20 years ago, I'd have looked the other way."
So what now for Camelot? That a physical problem emerges and he never races again cannot be ruled out as a possibility. The Arc is a possibility but even the bookmakers are in the dark with only half of them quoting Camelot in their list. The other alternatives include the Champion Stakes -- where he would face no less than Frankel; or the Breeders' Cup Turf, but the yard already has defending champion St Nicholas Abbey for that one.
Staying in training as a four-year-old has been more recently entertained as a possibility by connections. This, in itself, is an about-turn from the old-fashioned mantra of making them a stallion and off to stud at the end of their three-year-old career.
Commercially this also makes sense. At this stage Camelot hasn't yet competed outside his own age-group and the evidence suggests this year's three-year-old crop are decidedly moderate. In addition, Coolmore already has a Derby winner sired by Montjeu (Pour Moi) from only last year in the breeding sheds and two side by side in such quick succession might only create a tyranny of choice for the market and compromise the commercial potential of both. Furthermore, with proven superstars Sea The Stars and, imminently, Frankel for breeders to choose from, room at the top is getting scarce.
And, finally, if Camelot is as good as Coolmore has always believed he is, then an all-conquering four-year-old career would greatly enhance his stallion prospects.
We will know more when Radio Silence turns to Coolmore Calling.
Sunday Indo Sport